As a rule, any music festival opened by a druid has got to be a good one. On its 15th year, Green Man was no exception.
With badbadnotgood being, um, good, and Ride drawing a massive crowd on the Thursday night, the South Wales festival was off to a fantastic start. But it was the fuller Friday that really showed the festivals full potential. On the main Mountain stage, an politically charged Hurray for the Riff Raff declared “we are American and we come in peace”, before dedicating flawless songs to the world’s oppressed. They also performed ‘Dancing in the Dark’, just edging out The Big Moon’s cover of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ as best cover.
Later that night, under the thin disguise of an earthling surname, an angel appeared to Green Man. After opening with ‘High and Wild’, Angel Olsen captivated the audience with tracks of her wonderful 2016 album My Woman. Her otherworldly performance of tracks like ‘Woman’, ‘Sister’ and ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ didn’t move the audience much physically, but her incredible voice and aura simply moved most of the audiences mouths into a shocked open position for the entirety of the set.
When the crowd had recovered, Kate Tempest followed passionately with her goosebump raising ‘Europe is Lost’ echoing Charlotte Church’s earlier comments on the “absolute bollocks” of the hypocritical pomp and circumstance of politics. Future Islands, despite singer Samuel Herring’s penis falling out of his trousers, were the perfect headliners. Herring’s infamous flashes of his gruff voice and iconic dance moves were just the icing on a flawless performance.
Early on Saturday, Jae Tyler showed huge promise in the Rising tent while Aldous Harding wowed the Walled Garden and disheartened quiz teams slowly left the impossible music quiz. Meanwhile smart festival goers used the Wi-Fi from the festivals very posh fields to undoubtedly listen to Angel Olsen.
The biggest surprise at the festival was just how good Francobollo were. Headlining the Rising stage, the band were wild, funny and chaotic yet in perfect control. Even when an audience member asked for a beer, lead singer Simon Nilsson could present one for him from his back pocket. They then invited two kids to dance and play guitar on stage, before finishing with ‘Future Lover’ with a little help from the audience.
Headliner Ryan Adams, whose top three songs on Spotify are covers of ‘Wonderwall’ and Taylor Swift, was, well, Ryan Adams…
The lasting effects of Angel Olsen withdrawal were taking their toll on many festival goers, who could be seen packing their belongings back into their Waitrose bags for life and leaving in Sundays morning rain. However, those who persevered were treated with some of the best performances of the weekend. Brooke Bentham played a wonderfully sedate set in the Rising tent. Though toned down, set closer ’Heavy and Ephemeral’ made the subtleties of her songwriting more obvious. Julia Jacklin then performed songs from her fantastic Don’t Let The Kids Win, the titular track without the rest of her band. With pathetic fallacy on her side, the rain was just enough to disguise how the song had touched a few in the audience.
Under the pretence of his dad paying for him to tour Europe as he “don’t sell too many records anymore” Conor Oberst destroyed the main stage. Despite problems with his guitars, apparently because he “didn’t take the trash out or mow the lawn”, the unphased audience continued dancing to songs about murder, drinking and lies in an ever increasing rain. Though much of the set came from recent albums Ruminations and Salutations, he paid homage to Bright Eye’s Cassadaga on its 10th anniversary with ‘Four Winds’, a beautiful song that sounds a little (lot) like ‘Santa Claus is coming to Town’.
Headliner PJ Harvey, after no doubt doing some kind of spell to halt the rain, stunned the crowd. Her incredible backing band threw magnificent colours onto the images of full moons, devils and love she sketched into the crowd’s minds. However, when they took a step back for ‘Dear Darkness’, time nearly stopped. The crowd fell entirely silent until the abrasive, powerful band returned in full a few songs later. Then, after finale ‘River Anacostia’, torches were lit by the side of the stage and a procession towards lighting The Green Man, beginning a spectacular fireworks display. After 15 fantastic years, Green Man shows no signs of compromising, slowing down or being anything other than absolute magic.